Reviving An Indigenous Language for Everyday Use

86
486

Learning Native languages restores connection to ancestors

When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492 there were approximately 250 indigenous languages spoken in the current United States area alone. However, after hundreds of years of conflict, genocide, and the systematic suppression of culture and languages, that number has declined to 148—with many of them only spoken by elders.

During the late 19th and 20th centuries, North American Native children in both Canada and the U.S. were forcibly taken from families and sent to boarding schools. At the infamous Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania they were told they “could never become truly American… until the Indian within you is dead.”

Amongst the obvious traits of “being Indian” were physical appearances, and of course, their spoken indigenous languages. After arriving at such schools, weeping children had their long hair shorn off and were dressed in uniforms. They were beaten for speaking the languages first heard across these lands. Older and more experienced students were encouraged to ostracize and bully younger students who dared utter the words of their ancestors.

But within the last generation, there has been a concerted effort to preserve remaining indigenous languages. At the forefront of these efforts are people like Maatoomsstatoos (“First Winters Sun”), also known as Robert Hall.

While growing up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana in the early 1990s, he recalled how common it was to hear his language. “You’d go into the store and hear two old men talking and laughing and you knew they were speaking Blackfeet, and that was your Indian language, but as a young kid you never realized the importance of it, or that you even had the opportunity to learn it.”

As the years went on, the sounds of people speaking Blackfeet became less frequent. “You don’t walk into the store anymore and hear the language,” he said.

However, he rejects the notion that the remaining Native languages will become obsolete and extinct. “I really hate it when people talk about, ‘Oh, it’s a dying language,’ because it’s the people who speak it that are dying, not the language itself.”

And since the language is still alive as an entity, it can grow again—as it did in Hall’s mind. Still, ironically, it wasn’t until he lived off the reservation and studied at the University of Montana that he realized how much of an Indian he was not. Professor Stephen Greymorning, Arapaho, instilled in him the idea that knowing one’s Native language was a distinct “burden of proof” they belonged to the tribe they claimed.

Hall said if somebody knows their Native tongue, no one could discredit their indigenousness by saying they weren’t living on a reservation; didn’t know every tradition; judge them for having light skin; or claim they didn’t have enough of the controversial blood quantum requirements to be a tribal member. “When you speak the language, all of that transcends,” Hall said. “My identity hasn’t changed, but my ammunition for sovereignty has grown, and I really do think that language is our most powerful tool for laying claim to this land as Blackfeet.”

Prompted by Greymorning, a few years ago Hall decided to take on learning the Algonquian-based Pikuni (Blackfeet) language seriously. With mentors like William Big Bull and others who spoke the language that he’d end up conversing regularly with, Hall eventually became proficient enough in Blackfeet to teach it.

While many public indigenous activists espouse the importance of revitalizing and preserving languages lest they disappear, Hall says, “If they themselves don’t know their own Native tongue and aren’t trying to set examples by learning it, them telling others to learn it rings as hollow as a beauty pageant contestant wishing for world peace.”

Although Hall still considers himself an ever-evolving student of the language, he’s adamant on teaching the Pikuni language to as many people as possible. Using mostly personal funds, he volunteers to teach various classes throughout the reservation on a weekly basis to adults and children. He also hosts a local radio broadcast that highlights Pikuni learning.

He said of his teaching methods, “I’m trying to train students and myself to be storytellers in my language. I’m not teaching colors, animals… I’m teaching phrases and concepts, and I think it’s important to point that out.”

Hall paraphrased American physicist Leonard Mlodinow, author of The Upright Thinkers, who said that if mathematics is the language of physics, then without mathematics we cannot speak physics. “So, without my language, I can’t think as my ancestors did,” he said. “The beauty, the concepts, the mathematics, symbolism, and thinking that come from within indigenous languages is extraordinary.”

He explained that in English the concept of “kinship” does not mean we’re related to animals, stones, or other objects they deem inanimate, but only other humans. In the Algonquian-based languages, however, we’re related to universal things like animals, water, and stones. “And that idea becomes easier to grasp, because it’s normal within our languages,” he said. “So that affects the consciousness, and you come to treat even inanimate objects as if they’re alive, and our community is affected by this way of thinking.”

Hall never emphasizes simple word translation and memorization when teaching. Rather, he talks about a “facilitative environment.” When a student learns the word for angry, they don’t get the true sense of its meaning just by hearing it. If they experience seeing a very angry person, however, “You didn’t need any translation for it because you know, ‘Yeah, that’s angry!’ You need a facilitative environment where the language is meaningful, so you’re not just memorizing simple words and translations. You need to experience language in real-time.”

To have younger students learn real-time language, he had them create a puppet show and narrate a story. “The idea was there was a scruffy dog the kids named Oski—in English his name is Hounge,” he laughed. “Anyway, the concept is this dog only speaks Blackfoot and can’t speak English, so in order to communicate he needs to teach everybody his language.”

Beyond teaching classes, Hall is excited about a book he plans to release in 2017 with William Big Bull and Sterling HolyWhiteMountain. The book is influenced by the Center for Accelerated Language Acquisition techniques, as well as concepts Hall learned from video games.

He explained when learning how to play a complex video game, you don’t jump into it and have the skills to defeat the harder levels. You have to learn from the earlier levels, build skills upon those foundations, and then gradually you’ll have the knowhow to defeat the more difficult boss levels to defeat the game.

In the language sense, the end game for students is they’d eventually learn to tell an entire story in Pikuni. Although Hall noted Native American translation dictionaries among varying tribes have been available for years, not putting the content into meaningful use will only cause the language to further collect dust, so to speak.

“You can’t just put words of a language on a piece of paper and tell people, ‘Oh, it’s preserved,’” he said. “You have to use the words in everyday life, because you are the readers in the book that is life.”

SOURCE:https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/history/traditional-societies/reviving-indigenous-language-everyday-use/

-Advertisement-

86 COMMENTS

  1. Very good blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any tips? Appreciate it!|

  2. Hi, I do think this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may come back once again since i have book-marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.|

  3. I’ll immediately grasp your rss feed as I can’t find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Please permit me know in order that I may just subscribe. Thanks.|

  4. Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Finding the time and actual effort to make a great article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.|

  5. Having read this I believed it was really enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this content together. I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!|

  6. Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your article seem to be running off the screen in Safari. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The design look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Kudos|

  7. Hello would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a tough time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but I had to ask!|

  8. It’s actually very complex in this full of activity life to listen news on TV, therefore I simply use internet for that purpose, and take the most up-to-date information.|

  9. Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any suggestions for rookie blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.|

  10. This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks!|

  11. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!|

  12. Excellent site you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Kudos!

  13. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Appreciate it!|

  14. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You clearly know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?|

  15. This is the right webpage for anyone who wishes to find out about this topic. You know so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a topic that has been discussed for ages. Great stuff, just excellent!|

  16. Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely useful information specifically the last part 🙂 I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this certain information for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.|

  17. hi!,I like your writing very a lot! share we communicate more about your article on AOL? I need an expert on this area to unravel my problem. Maybe that’s you! Taking a look ahead to look you. |

  18. Thank you, I have just been looking for information approximately this subject for a long time and yours is the greatest I’ve discovered till now. However, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you certain about the supply?|

  19. Hey I am so delighted I found your blog, I really found you by mistake, while I was looking on Yahoo for something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say cheers for a remarkable post and a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all at the moment but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the excellent b.|

  20. Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Opera. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The design look great though! Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Cheers|

  21. Hello there I am so thrilled I found your blog, I really found you by mistake, while I was browsing on Askjeeve for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say many thanks for a remarkable post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the awesome jo.|

  22. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.|

  23. Hi, I do think this is a great web site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to return once again since I book-marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.|

  24. My brother recommended I might like this web site. He was entirely right. This post truly made my day. You cann’t believe just how so much time I had spent for this info! Thank you!|

  25. Greetings from Florida! I’m bored at work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the information you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, awesome blog!|

  26. My brother recommended I may like this blog. He was entirely right. This put up truly made my day. You can not imagine simply how so much time I had spent for this info! Thank you!|

  27. I will right away snatch your rss as I can not find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly allow me recognize so that I may just subscribe. Thanks.|

  28. No matter if some one searches for his vital thing, thus he/she desires to be available that in detail, thus that thing is maintained over here.|

  29. naturally like your web site but you have to check the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very troublesome to inform the reality then again I will surely come back again.|

  30. Wow, amazing weblog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make running a blog glance easy. The full glance of your website is great, let alone the content!

  31. With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement? My site has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission. Do you know any techniques to help reduce content from being ripped off? I’d genuinely appreciate it.|

  32. Hi there, I found your site by means of Google while searching for a comparable subject, your website came up, it looks good. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  33. I just could not leave your web site before suggesting that I actually enjoyed the usual info a person supply on your visitors? Is going to be again incessantly to check out new posts|

  34. Hey there! I understand this is kind of off-topic but I had to ask. Does building a well-established blog such as yours take a lot of work? I’m completely new to writing a blog however I do write in my journal daily. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my own experience and views online. Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas or tips for brand new aspiring blog owners. Thankyou!|

  35. My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different page and thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to checking out your web page for a second time.|

  36. My developer is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the costs. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using Movable-type on a variety of websites for about a year and am concerned about switching to another platform. I have heard fantastic things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can import all my wordpress content into it? Any kind of help would be really appreciated!|

  37. I have learn several good stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how much effort you place to create this type of wonderful informative web site.|

  38. Unquestionably imagine that that you stated. Your favourite justification seemed to be at the web the easiest factor to consider of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed even as other folks consider concerns that they just don’t recognise about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing with no need side-effects , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thank you|

  39. I simply couldn’t go away your web site before suggesting that I actually enjoyed the standard information an individual provide for your visitors? Is going to be back continuously in order to investigate cross-check new posts|

  40. Google

    Very couple of web sites that transpire to be detailed beneath, from our point of view are undoubtedly effectively really worth checking out.

  41. Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will come back very soon. I want to encourage you to ultimately continue your great work, have a nice afternoon!|

  42. Howdy this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!|

  43. Undeniably believe that that you stated. Your favourite reason seemed to be on the internet the easiest factor to keep in mind of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed at the same time as people consider issues that they plainly do not recognise about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the highest as well as outlined out the entire thing without having side-effects , folks could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks|

  44. We stumbled over here by a different page and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to looking at your web page repeatedly.|

  45. best coffee beans

    […]we prefer to honor quite a few other net web pages on the net, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Below are some webpages worth checking out[…]

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here